Mariusz Rajczakowski
Nutritionist
11 min read | 2 years ago

10 useful tips to prepare for the summer holidays

Every year more and more of us travel abroad, however things like health and safety are often taken for granted.

This article will guide you through the health preacutions and prepare yourself for some unexpected situations and threats.

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1. Use bottled water

Drinking tap water on your holidays might be risky business. Water in some countries can contain microorganisms that can cause hepatitis type A, cholera, diarrhoea and typhoid.

To protect yourself you should avoid: drinking from tap, using tap water for brushing your teeth, drinks and coctails with ice.

According to NHS is also better to stick to bottled water or boiled water rather than purification tablets which may not kill all microorganisms [1].

To ensure that the bottled water is safe check the followings:

  • check to see if seals are unbroken
  • choose sparkling water as the carbon dioxide preserve water against bacteria growth
  • make sure that water was stored properly (cooled and not stored on the sun)

If you travel to Africa, South Africa, Western Europe, bottled water is a must as a tap water is unsafe for human consumption.

If you want to be sure where to drink, check the infographic http://www.justtheflight.co.uk/fun-stuff/tap-water/

palm

2. Sunscreens in a nutshell

Too much sun can have a harmful effect on your skin, increasing the risk of cancer and skin aging.

In general the lighter your skin is the more susceptible for UV damage as a melanin pigment (produced naturally in the body by exposing it on the UV radiation and causing visible tan) protect skin cells against radiation damage causing skin cancer.

According to the studies sunscreens can prevent melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma so it is reasonable to use them on your summer holiday as they proven to work [5].

Some of the sunscreens block only UVB, but actually an excess of UVA radiation increases the risk to melanoma nad photodermatitis [5].

Therefore it is adviced to use broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreens to address those concerns.

On the other hand, excessive sunscreens usage may cause vitamin D deficiency, so if you have severe deficiency using a sunscreen on daily basis might not be good idea.

The only way to know it, is to check the level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in your blood, and then decide how much protection do you need [6].

A Growing body of evidence says that some of the active ingredients (filters) can act like an endocrinal dissruptors (they negatively affect the hormonal homeostasis in human body) or cause skin allergies.

The current data suggests that sunscreens based on inorganic filters, such as zinc oxide (ZnO) or titanium dioxide (TiO2), if they applied topicaly (not as a spray, rather as a cream) are the most safest choice [7].

To get to know whether your sunscreen is safe please check our article about sunscreens.

Wondering which SPF level to choose? You should go for SPF-15, keep reapplying several time during sunbathing (especially after a swimming) as they provide a sufficient protection, and a difference between suncreens with higher SPF is negligible [4].

summer_woman

3. Sunscreen diet

You have probably packed your sunscreen already, but did you know that by eating certain foods it may protect you against getting sunburns and help you tan safer?

You should definitely try to eat more tomatoes. Some studies suggest that tomato derived product can protect you against sunburns, one study has shown that 40g of tomato paste with 10g olive oil, taken for 10 weeks decrease risk of sunburn by 40% [8].

Studies have shown that dark cocolate (at least 70% cocoa) and raw cocoa protect the skin from sunburn, improve dermal blood circulation and reduce the risk of a skin cancer.

Cocoa contains 4 times more antioxidants (phenols and cathechins) than tea [10,11,12].

Nevertheless, drinking 1-2 tea cups daily (green or black) is also good idea to prevent against sunburns, wrinkles, and reduce the risk of the skin cancer.

The most important antioxidant found in green tea EGCG, has shown to reduce inflammation, stopped genetic damage and improved skin elasticity [13,15].

All colourful vegetables (green – kale, broccoli, red – tomatoes, peppers, yellow – carrots, pumpkin) are packed with carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxiantin) which can prevent against sunburn, UV-induced erythema, and skin damage [9,14].

Don't forget to add a bit of olive oil to increase an absorbtion of those nutrients.

What you should avoid? It might be trivia, but actually reducing consumption of sugar and sweets can help.

Studies have shown, that sugar intake contributes to the formation of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs).

Apart from negative effect of wrinkles and cellulite promotion, it has been shown that UVA radiation is far more toxic to skin with excessive AGEs buildup [16].

4. Food safety

If you have chosen all-inclusive holidays you should keep a caution. Similarily to eating street food it can increase the risk of food poisoning.

Having all-inclusive hoidays, where both food and beverages are provided gives you twice bigger chance of becoming sick as those on room only deals [17].

You should always wash your hands prior to a meal, also try to arrive as early as possible to eat fresh food.

In countries with poor sanitation you should avoid [1]:

  • salads, such as lettuce (unless washed with safe water and peeled on your own)
  • uncooked fruits and vegetabes (unless washed with safe water and peeled on your own)
  • unpasteruised milk, cheese, ice cream and other dairy product
  • undercooked eggs, includding runny porached or boiled eggs, mayonnaise, ceaeser salads and steak tartare (samlonella risk)
  • undercooked shellfish or seafood
  • food from street traders (unless freshly prepared and served hot)

5. Weight gain

An abundance of excellent food and decreased (not always) physical activity may lead to extra few pounds on scale after holiday break.

To avoid this you might stick to the few simple steps:

  • slow down – it can take 15-20 minutes after first bite, for your brain to receive satiety signals; remember: eating slower = eating less
  • avoid alcohol drinks, sweet beverage and fruit juices – the worst type of calories, in a liquid form, goes directly where you don't want to go – around your belly! If you want to know more about the health consequences of drinking fruit juices click [here – article about fruit juices]
  • cut down your carbs – choosing large portion of meat with plenty of vegetables (hopefully freshly prepared salad with safe water) will really help you to stay trim, try to eliminate: bread, rolls, croissants, pancakes, rice, potatoes and chips instead add and extra serving of a meat and stay full
  • drink plenty of water – water is non-caloric, but also beverages such as coffee or tea (antioxidants), help you staying hydrated, but also keep you away from another snacking
  • keep moving – weight loss is done mostly in the kitchen, however some walking won't hurt you, instead it can help you burn an extra few calories; remember: you can get your tan not by being immobilised at the beach but also: walking at the beach, playing water sports or beach volleyball
surf

6. Aftersun treatment

In cases of sunburn, try to cool down your skin with cold water, apply soothing afersun or calamine lotion.

Try to stay away from sun until the redness will disappear. If you have to go out in the sun, try to have you cap/hat, t-shirt/long sleeve to cover the skin and protect against another sun damages.

You can take care of your skin using great moisturizers such as aloe vera gel, which really can make a difference to your skin condition.

Another good skincare is to use coconut butter/oil – which will keep your skin protected against drying out and even worse, peeling.

7. Mosquito's risks

mosquito

Two main risks of mosquitos related diseases are zika-virus infection and malaria.

Malaria is a severe tropical disease spread by mosquitos which untreated can become fatal. It takes just a single bite to cause a disease.

The infection is caused by a type of parasite known as Plasmodium (five types cause malaria in humans) [18].

Malaria is a risk in more than 100 countries, mainly in tropical areas around the world (mostly Africa and Asia, Central and South America, Haiti and Dominican Republic, parts of the middle east, some Pacific Islands) [18].

To see all areas check the CDC website [here] [19].

It is always better to prevent rather than treat, so here are few simple steps to protect against malaria [18]:

  • awareness of risk – find out whether you are at risk of getting malaria prior travelling
  • use a repelent - that contains DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) on exposed skin, after sunscreen has been applied, if can be used by pregnant and breastfeeding women in concentration up to 50%, and in infants and children older than two months. It should not be used on babies younger than two months.
  • avoid mosquito bite - by covering your arms and legs, using insecticide mosquito net and wearing white clothes (mosquitos are attracted to dark colours)
  • check whether you need malaria prevention tablets – if you do, make sure you take the right one, accurate dose and timing
  • diagnosis – if you develop malaria sympthoms after travelling you should seek medical advice

If malaria have been diagnosed and treated immedietly, virtually everyone will make a full recovery.

Treatment should be started as soon as the diagnosis has been confirmed [18].

Another common disease spreaded by mosquitos is a zika virus infection.

The diseases has spread in Brazil, South and Central America.

For the majority of the population the infection have only mild health sympthoms.

However, it is very serious for pregnant women, as there is evidence that it can lead to birth defects – particulary, abnormal small heads (microcephaly) [20].

To see the map of the countries affected by spreading zika-virus click [here] [21].

The prevention against Zika virus infection is similar to malaria infection. Currently there is no specific treatment for Zika virus infection [20].

8. Constipation

Whether you are pregnant, prone to constipation or just because you have changed climate and food this is very common among travellers, you should know what to do in this case.

To ease constipation you should:

  • eat more fibre – try more high fibre food such as whole grain products, lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, vegetables and limit the food low in fibre (white bread, rolls, croissants, pancakes, chips, white rice)
  • drink plenty of fluids – increase water intake, as it can make stools softer and easier to pass, also alows fibre to do its job – bulking up.
  • move your body – try to increase the periods of physical activity, especially the lower parts of your body involving leg work (long walks, bike rides)
  • listen to your body – do not ignore the urge of bowel movements while on holidays. Try to listen to the signals, relax and make a natural routine prioritising your gut health
  • take probiotics – this small microorganisms can improve whole gut transit time, stool frequency, and stool consistency (especially Bifidobacterium lactis strains) [22,23]

9. Diarrhoa

New climates, exotic food, contaminated water, poor sanitation can cause diarrhoea.The most common cause of it is an infection of the intestines due to either a virus, bacteria, or parasite.

In terms of prevention you should:

  • wash your hands – studies show that using soap and water have reduced the incidence of diarrhoea by approximately 42-48% [24]
  • use only safe water (bottled or boiled)
  • vaccinate against rotavirus (when breastfeeding)
  • take probiotics - (strains: Saccharomyces boulardii, L. rhamnosus GG, L. reuteri) as they have been shown to be efective in reducing risk of diarrhoea [25,26]

To treat diarrhoea you should:

  • not take imodium - (Loperamidi hydrochloridum) as it reduces the movement in the intestinal wall, causing bacteria toxins to remain inside and also can cause side effects (dizziness, drowsiness, tiredness or constipation) and does not target the underlying issue
  • rehydrate – the best are rehydration fluids (using oral rehydration salts ORS solution and clean water). Make sure you have few sachets when traveling
  • take probiotics – they shorten a duration of diarrhoea (strains: Saccharomyces boulardii, L. rhamnosus GG, L. reuteri) [25,26]
  • take zinc – the studies have shown that zinc supplementation reduce the duration of a diarrhoea episode by 25% and stool volume by 30% [24]

10. Oral health

Oral health is important, no doubt.

The last thing you want to have is a dental problem far away from your home country.

However you can prepare yourself earlier:

  • do the dental check-up – make an appointment with your dentist and make sure that all urgent problems are solved
  • don't forget your toothbrush
  • avoid sugars, sweets, soft drinks and fruit juices
  • drink water
  • drink green tea - (effective in reducing oral malodor temporarily because of its disinfectant and deodorant acitivities [27] and inhibit the growth of Streptococcus mutants which is the main harmful bacteria contributing to cavities and tooth decay [28])
  • take sugar-free chewing gum – when you cannot brush your teeth use chewing gum to decrease pH level in your mouth and have anti-cariogenic (reduce dental caries) effect, make sure you do not overdose as an excess of sorbitol can cause diarrhoea [29]
References
  1. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/travelhealth/Pages/Food-and-water-abroad.aspx as seen on 28/08/2016
  2. http://www.justtheflight.co.uk/fun-stuff/tap-water/ as seen on 28/08/2016
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melanin as seen on 28/08/2016
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvG4sy_YfXM as seen on 28/08/2016 Sunscreen works, if you use it right. Aaron E. Carroll
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunscreen as seen on 28/08/2016
  6. Norval M., Wulf H.C., Does chronic sunscreen use reduce vitamin D production to insufficient levels. Br J Dematol 2009 Oct; 161(4): 732-6
  7. http://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/the-trouble-with-sunscreen-chemicals/ as seen on 28/08/2016
  8. Stahl W., Heinrich U., Wiseman S., Eichler O., Sies H., Tronnier H., Dietary tomato paste protects against ultraviolet light-induced erythema in humans. J Nutr. 2001 May; 131(5) 1449-1451
  9. Fortes C., Mastroeni S., Melchi F., Pilla M.A., Antonelli G., Camaioni D., Alotto M., Pasquini P., A protective effect of the Mediterranean diet for cutaneous melanoma. Int J Epidemiol 2008 Oct, 37(5): 1018-29
  10. Koostra A., Protection from UV-B induced DNA damage by flavonoids. Plant Mol Biol. 1994 Oct; 26(2): 771-4
  11. Heinrich U., Neukam K., Tronnier H., Sies H., Stahl W., Long-term ingestion of high flavonol cocoa provides photoprotection against UV-induced erythema and improves skin condition in women. J Nutr. 2006 Jun; 136(6): 1565-9
  12. Neuman K., Stahl W., Tronnier H., Sies H., Heinrich U., Consumption of flavonol-rich cocoa acutely increses microcirculation in human skin. Eur J Nutr. 2007 Feb; 46(1): 53-6
  13. Heinrich U., Moore C.E., De Spirit S., Tronnier H., Stahl W., Green tea polyphenols provide photoprotection, increase microcircullation, and modulate skin properties of women. J Nutr. 2011 Jun; 141(6): 1202-8
  14. Stahl W., Helmut S., Carotenoids and Flavonoids Contribute to Nutritional Protection against Skin Damage from Sunlight. 2007 Sep, vol 37, issue 1, 26-30
  15. Rees J.R., Stukel T.A., Perry A.E., Zens M.S., Spencer S.K., Karagas M.R., Tea consumption and basal cell and squamos cell skin cancer: results of a case-control study. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2007 May; 56(5): 781-5
  16. Gkogkolou P., Bohm M., Advanced glycation end products. Key Players in skin aging? Dermatoendocrinol 2012 Jul 1; 4(3): 259-270
  17. http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/lifestyle/food-drink/10-hidden-food-dangers-how-8491595 as seen on 2016/09/03
  18. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Malaria/Pages/Introduction.aspx as seen on 2016/09/03
  19. https://www.cdc.gov/malaria/travelers/country_table/a.html as seen on 2016/09/03
  20. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/zika-virus/Pages/Introduction.aspx as seen on 2016/09/03
  21. http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/active-countries.html as seen on 2016/09/03
  22. Dimindi E., Christodoulides S., Fragkos K.C., Scott M., Whelan K., The effect of probiotics on functional constipation in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials 1,2,3. American Society for Nutrition 2014 Aug
  23. Miller L.E., Zimmermann A.K., Ouwehand A.C., Contemporary meta-analysis of short-term probiotic consumption on gastrointestinal transit. World J Gastroenterol. 2016 Jun 7; 22(21): 5122-31
  24. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diarrhea as seen on 2016/09/03
  25. McFarland L.V., Systematic review and meta-analysis of Saccharomyces boulardii in adult patients. World J. Gastroenterol 2010 May 14; 16(18): 2202-2222
  26. Salari P., Nikfar S., Abdollahi M., A meta-analysis and systematic review on the effect of probiotics in acute diarrhea. Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets 2012 Feb, 11(1): 3-14
  27. Lodhia P., Yaegaki K., Khakbaznejad A., Imai T., Sato T., Tanaka T., Murata T., Kamoda T., Effect of green tea on volatile sulfur compounds in mouth air. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol 2008 Feb; 54(1): 89-94
  28. Muroi H., Kubo I., Combination effects of antibacterial compounds in green tea flavor against Streptococcus mutants. J. Agric. Food Chem. 1993, 41(7), pp 1102-1105
  29. Mickenautsch S., Leal S.C., Yengopal V., Bezerra A.C., Cruvinel V., Sugar-free chewing gum and dental caries – a systematic review. J Appl Oral Sci. 2007 Apr; 15(2): 83-88

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